Stars-Blackhawks Preview

Even without their star captain, the Chicago Blackhawks continue

to find ways to win.

The Blackhawks will be without Jonathan Toews for a second

straight contest as they try to match a season high with a fifth

consecutive victory Thursday night against the Dallas Stars at the

United Center.

With Toews scratched because of an upper-body injury, Chicago

(33-21-7) beat rival and NHL-leader Detroit 2-1 at home Tuesday for

its fourth straight victory following a nine-game losing streak.

Rookie Jimmy Hayes scored his fifth goal, Marcus Kruger added the

winner early in the third period and Corey Crawford made 31

saves.

“In 82 games, you’re going to play without some players on any

given night,” forward Patrick Sharp said. “Losing (Toews) was big,

but we rallied around each other.”

The team leader with 29 goals, Toews could be ready to play on a

trip west to Los Angeles and Anaheim that starts Saturday.

“Tazer is progressing, he’s day to day” coach Joel Quenneville

told the Blackhawks’ official website.

The upper-body issue isn’t Toews’ only problem. He was involved

in a minor one-car accident on the way to the United Center on

Thursday, though he didn’t suffer an injury.

After rallying to beat Detroit, Chicago should feel confident

even without one of their top players in the lineup. The Blackhawks

have improved on the defensive end of late, allowing five goals

during their four-game winning streak after giving up an average of

4.2 during the nine-game skid.

“We have to keep it going,” defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Chicago hopes to do that while trying for a second straight

victory over Dallas (30-26-4), which had its four-game winning

streak over the Blackhawks snapped with a 5-2 loss at the United

Center on Oct. 8. The Blackhawks have won seven of eight overall at

home, and eight of 11 against the Stars in Chicago.

Though Toews will watch, Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson

could be back after missing the last seven games with a

concussion.

Sharp, who has two goals and three assists in the last four

games, has two with four assists in his last five versus Dallas at

the United Center.

Crawford has a 1.25 goals-against average during Chicago’s

four-game winning streak. That has followed a personal 0-4-1

stretch where he posted a 4.35 GAA. He stopped 19 shots in October

to improve to 2-1-0 with a 2.70 GAA against the Stars at home.

While the Blackhawks are focused on improving their playoff

position in the West, Dallas is simply trying to move back into the

picture. In the hunt for the conference’s final postseason spot,

the Stars have dropped five of seven but are coming off a 3-0 win

at Montreal on Tuesday.

Dallas has not won two straight contests since posting

consecutive victories over Anaheim around the All-Star break.

“We’ve got to get some kind of consistency with winning and I

think that point is probably right now,” defenseman Alex Goligoski

told the Stars’ official website.

Former Canadien Mike Ribeiro scored his 13th of the season,

rookie Ryan Garbutt added the first of his career and Kari Lehtonen

stopped 31 shots for his second shutout this season.

“It was a big game for us,” said Ribeiro, who has two goals and

three assists in the last five games.

Lehtonen is 4-1-0 with a 1.58 GAA versus Chicago. He made 37

saves in Dallas’ 2-1 home win over the Blackhawks on Oct. 7.